Public Participation, Social Equity, and Technology in Urban Governance

Public Participation, Social Equity, and Technology in Urban Governance

Thomas W. Sanchez (Virginia Tech, USA) and Marc Brenman (Social Justice Consultancy, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4169-3.ch003


Social equity commonly refers to fairness or impartiality, usually in terms of inputs or outcomes related to social and economic opportunity. In the case of urban planning, social equity can take the form of participation in decision-making activities, especially those that involve allocating public resources. An assumption (and hope) is that through participation, stakeholders have greater influence on outcomes that are in their collective interest. Opportunities to participate are rapidly expanding along with rapid technological innovation. Therefore, the authors argue that there is a connection among participation, equity, and technology in creating more equitable governance structures. In particular, the authors discuss how information and communications technologies can serve to reduce barriers to information exchange and thereby generate stronger bonds and quicker formation of partnerships and connections within the public realm. This chapter explores these issues through the lens of e-government, e-democracy, and the digital divide in a U.S. context.
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E-Democracy And E-Government

The terms e-gov and e-dem have a variety of analogs. E-gov, which is also referred to as digital government, online government, or connected government, is the effort to digitally provide better and quicker access to government services, information, and communications; to provide information to constituents; and to provide better accountability (Evans-Cowley & Hollander, 2010). The objective is to substitute ICTs for manual, in-person, hard copy, or previously unavailable public services. The application of ICTs to government operations is intended to provide a virtual presence of government. For example, the functionality of a government Web site should be comparable to or more useful than an actual visit to the agency in terms of the services and information available. Not only can more information be made available, but also being electronically indexed allows for easier access and the targeting of specific information. Constituents can also sometimes manipulate information to provide new connections that they had previously not been aware of, as well as spatial images through mapping and geographic information systems (GIS).

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